Spelling Trouble for Israel's Arab Parties, Announcement of Joint Run Canceled

Two of four Arab-majority parties boycotted press conference on revived Joint List over a dispute on allocation of spots on joint ticket

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
Ayman Odeh (left) and Ahmed Tibi (right) in Jerusalem, September 2018.
Ayman Odeh (left) and Ahmed Tibi (right) in Jerusalem, September 2018.Credit: Emil Salman
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

A press conference scheduled for Monday evening to announce the joint run of Israel's four Arab-majority parties in Knesset in the September 17 election, was called off at the last moment because two of the four parties said they would boycott it.

The press conference was called by the Hadash and United Arab List parties with the blessing of a "reconciliation committee" set up to help the four parties resolve their differences. Its goal was to pressure the other two parties, Balad and Ta’al, to soften their positions in negotiations regarding the joint slate’s composition.

But after Balad and Ta’al said they wouldn’t show up for the event, the reconciliation committee announced that it would be postponed until Thursday, in the hopes that the dispute would be resolved by then.

>> Restore the Joint List | Editorial

All four parties ran on a joint ticket known as the Joint List in 2015, but it broke apart into two slates prior to the April 9 election. After those two slates fared significantly worse than the Joint List did in 2015, they agreed to reconstitute the joint ticket prior to September’s election. But negotiations on doing so have bogged down over disagreements about which slots on the ticket should go to which parties. The main dispute is over the 11th through 14th slots.

Hadash, UAL and the reconciliation committee decided to call the press conference during a meeting on Sunday. Over the weekend, the two parties issued a joint press statement voicing their commitment to reestablishing the Joint List and urging Balad and Ta’al to accept the allocation of places on the ticket proposed by the committee. But Balad and Ta’al object vehemently to this proposal.

Hadash and UAL had hoped the press conference would at least bring Ta’al onboard. That would leave Balad isolated, increasing the pressure on it to capitulate. The reconciliation committee’s spokesman, Mustafa Kabha, said the conference would be used to present the results of the negotiations to date.

Kabha said the committee had decided to give the parties another chance to reach an agreement, and therefore would convene on Thursday to announce the reconstruction of the Joint List, adding that negotiations between all four parties are still ongoing.

The parties easily reached an agreement on how the first 10 places on the ticket should be allocated, based on the results of the last election. Hadash will get four of the top 10 slots, while the other parties will get two each.

The committee proposed that UAL get the 11th slot, Hadash the 12th, Balad the 13th and Ta’al the 14th. But the latter two parties want their candidates higher on the list, and Balad even announced that it was severing contacts with the committee over the dispute.

Meanwhile, a growing faction within Balad advocates boycotting the election altogether and quitting the Knesset, at least temporarily. Former MK Basel Ghattas recently published an article proposing a temporary absence from parliament so the party could concentrate on bolstering its support within the Arab community, shoring up the party’s institutions and strengthening what he termed the “Palestinian national movement” within Israel.

But while that position has some supporters in the party, others fear that if Balad quits the Knesset now, it will simply be wiped off the political map.

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